Most pet owners know that a dog’s health starts with his diet and dog food we pick is crucial to how our beloved fur babies thrive.
Nature’s Recipe dog food is an option you can see on the shelves of your local pet store or online. If you’ve ever wondered if the brand is worth it, then you’ve come to the right place. The company’s slogan is “every ingredient counts”.
Do they really use high-quality ingredients, and what type of dog food do they produce?
These questions are just some examples of a pet parent’s concern. We’ll answer these queries and more in our Nature’s Recipe dog food review.
Table of Contents
About Nature’s Recipe
Again, the brand has a very enticing slogan “every ingredient counts”. The brand focuses on creating all-natural dog foods, which could explain the higher price tag.
Of course, we have to take pet owners’ reviews into account, and so far there are fewer negative reviews compared to some other market leaders in the pet food industry.
What’s great about Nature’s Recipe dog food is it has both grain and grain-free recipes. It doesn’t matter what you choose, the recipes are enriched with essential vitamins and minerals that dogs of every size and breed need for healthy skin, hardy bones, strong muscles, and immuno-support.
Nature’s Recipe tries its best to only use nature’s best ingredients (hence the name). It prides itself in using real meat (such as real chicken) as the number 1 ingredient, and you won’t find any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives in its formulas. Nature’s Recipe also steers clear of corn, soy, and wheat, along with meat by-product meals.
Again, every single ingredient in Nature’s Recipe formulas is selected with a purpose. You can know each item has a function and paves the way to a healthier pup!
Nature’s Recipe History
Nature’s Recipe has been a heavy-hitter in the dog food industry for 35 years and counting. The brand was launched by Big Heart Pet Brands, which is a part of J.M. Smucker now, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the US. Big Heart Pet Brands’ umbrella also extends to other famous pet brands such as Milo’s Kitchen.
But before Nature’s Recipe became a part of J.M. Smucker or even Big Heart Pet Brands, it got its start somewhere else. A company called Earth Elements was producing Nature’s Recipe dog foods, and it was founded by Jeffrey Bennet in 1981.
Nature’s Recipe has a place in history as the first dog food brand to offer a lamb and rice recipe. In 1996, Bennet sold Earth Elements to the H.J. Heinz Company.
In 2002, Nature’s Recipe became a part of the Del Monte Foods brand, which also owned 9Lives and Kibbles n’ Bits among others. Del Monte Foods rebranded and renamed themselves Big Heart Pet Brands, which focused on pet products. And a few years after that is when Nature’s Recipe was acquired by J.M. Smucker.
Nature’s Recipe itself hasn’t had many issues and has even won the 2021 Best New Product Award for wet dog food. However, it’s a different story for Big Heart Pet Brands. In more recent years (July 2017 to be exact) there was a class action lawsuit filed against the parent company of Nature’s Recipe.
The focus of the lawsuit claimed that the company allegedly falsely advertised pet food as “natural”, when in fact there were synthetic and artificial ingredients in the recipe.
There are other lawsuits that happened in recent years that also have to do with false advertising of grain-free recipe ingredients. There was also one filed against child brand Gravy Train, another pet food label that claimed it contained sedatives linked to euthanasia.
Again, serious accusations like these were not filed against Nature’s Recipe. If you’re wondering about the recall history of the brand, we’ll cover that in a bit.
Where is Nature’s Recipe Dog Food Made?
As we mentioned, Nature’s Recipe dog food belongs to J.M. Smucker company, based in Ohio. The wet dog food from the brand is made in Thailand, but the dry dog food recipes are made in the USA.
We don’t want to be discriminatory, but it’s, unfortunately, something we have to do when it comes to dog food. For example, locally-sourced ingredients created in national kitchens that adhere to food safety standards and are subject to regular inspections will definitely be safer than ingredients without a clear origin and crafted in kitchens with murky regulations.
This pertains not only to Nature’s Recipe but to all dog food brands. Dog owners should vet where the food was made and where the ingredients were sourced.
Nature’s Recipe Dog Food Cost
The cost of purchasing any product is a primary consideration for many consumers, and pet food is included. The price of the dog food depends on the size of the packaging and the type of food (wet or dry dog food). The price can be as low as a dollar or two for a single serving of wet dog food, but the price can run up to around $50 for full-sized dry foods.
It is pretty on par with some popular brands such as Hill’s Science Diet but is cheaper than premium brands such as Acana and Orijen. Aside from the variance in wet dog food and dry dog food, the price will also differ according to grained or grain-free recipes.
Sometimes the price will reflect the quality of the food, but this isn’t always the case. Smaller pet food companies could also charge more due to their size. We can see some Hill’s Science Diet recipes are pretty affordable compared to some premium brands like Orijen. There is a major debate about WSAVA dog food brands (Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina, etc) and ones that do not comply with the guidelines (Orijen, Blue Buffalo, and all other brands that are not the big 5).
It’s also important to mention that WSAVA is sponsored by a lot of the companies that meet their guidelines. Again, this is a hotly debated topic with staunch believers on both sides of the argument, so we leave the decision up to you. One thing we will say is cost shouldn’t be the first consideration for your fur baby.
Nature’s Recipe Ingredient Quality
Nature’s Recipe manufactures many recipes, and it could take days to go through each one. However, we have isolated the most common ingredients to bring a concerned pet parent the list of benefits and potential drawbacks.
As we said, the brand doesn’t include soy, wheat, corn, or artificial flavors, colors and preservatives in their formulas. You also won’t find meat by-product meals, but what you will find are:
Chicken and Turkey (Poultry)
Unlike some other dog food brands, Nature’s Recipe focuses on poultry-based formulas. Their meat as the number 1 ingredient is derived from chicken or turkey (and lamb, but we’ll cover that in a bit). Poultry has lean protein content and is a high-quality protein source if sourced correctly. Poultry supports lean muscle growth and the development of healthy organs.
This is great, but if your dog is not a fan of sweet potato, chicken, or turkey, then you should try the lamb recipe.
Lamb is the other primary high-quality protein source used by Nature’s Recipe dog food. It also has the same purpose as poultry in supporting strong muscle growth, but it is also jam-packed with amino acids for muscle maintenance as well. Not to mention, it’s delicious for your dog!
Sweet potato has plenty of nutrients and antioxidants that boost a dog’s immune system and offers enough energy to meet your dog’s output.
We also see pumpkin in a lot of Nature’s Recipe dog food formulas, and it’s an excellent source of fiber. The fiber in dog food helps promote digestive health and firms up poop. Why is it necessary to firm up your dog’s poop? If your dog has diarrhea, pumpkin fiber can help give the feces more shape and help with digestion.
If your dog suffers from anal gland issues, which a lot of small breeds do, pumpkin fiber firms up the poop to help express the gland as it comes out. Regular excretion of the anal sac will greatly decrease anal gland issues.
Garbanzo beans are a source of fiber as well, like pumpkin recipe options, and they also provide folic acid and introduce phosphorus into your dog’s diet.
Lastly, we see peas in many of Nature’s Recipe formulas. Peas bring a lot of vitamins to the table such as vitamins A, K, and C.
*Just as an added note for pet parents everywhere, there is currently research being conducted by the FDA on the potential links between potatoes (including the sweet potato), lentils, and legumes (peas and beans) to DCM (canine dilated cardiomyopathy) or enlarged heart syndrome. The research is ongoing, but we felt it was necessary to point this out to pet parents so you can have all the information you need to make the right decision.
Nature’s Recipe Top Product Lines
One of the biggest sellers of Nature’s Recipe is its dry dog food. As mentioned, the dry dog food recipes focus on poultry and lamb as the main meat ingredients, but there are both grained and grain-free options.
Grains have gotten a bad rap for a while, which is what prompted the dog food industry to create grain-free recipes. It’s a hotly debated topic about whether grains are necessary for a dog’s diet, and it brings polarizing opinions within the pet community. Some say you shouldn’t go grain-free because they make up the recipe with more lentils and legumes (DCM link).
Others claim you don’t need to go grain-free unless your dog is proven to have a grain allergy. Then there’s the school of thought that grains are a part of a balanced diet, but it also depends on the type of grain.
However, it is mostly agreed upon that if you do decide to go with a grained recipe, go with whole grains, which is what Nature’s Recipe does. Both the Nature’s Recipe lamb and rice and chicken and rice recipes use whole grain rice.
The protein within helps maintain healthy and strong muscles, added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids promote healthy skin and coats. The grains help with digestion and the contents of calcium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus support strong bones and healthy joints.
Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free
There are more grain-free dry dog food recipes in Nature’s Recipe than grained. You have two adult formulas, the grain-free chicken and lamb, and two special recipes, the grain-free chicken for small breeds and grain-free chicken for puppies.
All the recipes have similar ingredients to support healthy skin and coats, muscle and bone growth, digestion, and the immune system. The puppy recipe contains DHA, which is essential for a young dog’s brain and eye development.
The small breeds recipe has smaller dry dog food kibble, which is designed to be more suitable for their little mouths.
The wet dog foods from Nature’s Recipe have more variety in flavor. There’s the traditional chicken and turkey, but we don’t see any lamb. The chicken and turkey recipes are also accompanied by more exotic meats such as venison, duck, and even salmon!
Each recipe is geared towards healthy digestion, balanced nutrition, a healthy immune system, and everything good for your pup! The wet dog food also has the same benefits as the dry dog food such as skin and coat health, joint protection, etc, but just with more flavor!
If you see a decrease in water intake when you switch from dry dog food to wet food, don’t be alarmed because this is normal. This is because wet dog food is about 70% moisture. If you’re doing the opposite and introducing a dog accustomed to wet food to dry dog food, then make sure there is access to a lot of H2O.
Nature’s Recipe Dog Food also has treats! They’re called chewy bites and are bite-sized soft chews that are great for positive reinforcement and snacks. They come in two recipes, the turkey, pea, and carrot recipe, and the chicken sweet potato and apple.
Snacks aren’t bad for dogs, in fact, they can sometimes supplement an already amazing diet. The natural dog treats follow the same promise as the dog food from Nature’s Recipe and do not include artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, no grains, or by-product meat meals. All you get are yummy chewy bites that your dog will love!
Alternatives to Nature’s Recipe
Okay, so maybe you’re a bit hesitant about the abundance of sweet potato and pea content, or you’re not keeping on the Nature’s Recipe grain-free options. If this is the case for you, then you may seek alternatives.
Don’t worry, we have you covered! Here are some great alternative dog foods that most pooches love!
The Diamond Naturals brand is an excellent alternative to Nature’s Recipe because they too focus on natural formulas and ingredients. The Diamond brand has a few different lines. Aside from Naturals, there’s also Diamond Care, Diamond Pro89, the regular Diamond and Diamond Naturals grain-free.
What makes them a brand comparable to Nature’s Recipe? Let’s analyze their nutritional integrity and their quality assurance promise.
Like Nature’s Recipe, Diamond dog foods also value ingredients with a purpose. Everything they use in their dog food has a function. Diamond has more to offer than Nature’s Recipe when it comes to special formulas. Aside from dog food for small breeds, Diamond also has large breed formulas, ones for skin and coat health, and for various life stages.
Open Farm prides itself as a sustainable and ethical brand. Each ingredient is sourced to give your dog the best nutrition possible. What really makes Open Farm stand out and a contender for one of the best alternatives to Nature’s Recipe is how they are meticulous with their sourcing standards.
The brand audits farms and plants to make sure all of the facilities they choose to partner with adhere to the strictest animal welfare standards. They are also certified humane and are very transparent about their sourcing methods and processes. They also have a plan to greatly reduce their carbon footprint within the next 10 years.
As far as nutrition goes, they have multiple product lines to satisfy any dog’s liking. You can find dry dog food, wet food, freeze-dried raw, gently cooked recipes, treats, supplements, and even broths and food toppers! With such a wide assortment and flavors, it’s hard not to want to try Open Farm.
It’s important not to get the two confused. Nature’s Logic is another brand that adopts the same values as Nature’s Recipe in the sense that they both put emphasis on pet nutrition, as with most dog food brands. Nature’s Logic also shares Open Farm’s dedication to sustainability.
What you get with the dry dog food and wet food recipes provided by Nature’s Logic is all natural – nothing synthetic. Whole ingredients are what’s preferred, and Nature’s Logic uses nothing but that. There are various dog food lines from canned goods to dry dog food for various life stages.
Nature’s Logic’s promise to your fur baby includes recipes with high protein content and of the utmost quality, 100% natural food ingredients to give your pup all the essential nutrients, plus plenty of other supportive supplements.
Where to Buy Nature’s Recipe Dog Food
Luckily, Nature’s Recipe is easily accessible so your dog won’t have to miss out on good food and top nutritional value. You can find the formulas on shelves at your local pet store such as Petsmart, or you can purchase them online from e-commerce giants such as Chewy or Amazon.
What’s great about purchasing pet food from the likes of Chewy and Amazon is a lot of sellers offer a subscription service. You can choose to have the food delivered regularly to your door so you won’t need to place a new order every time it runs out. Doing so will also ensure that your pup never goes hungry!
Sometimes we just have the pickiest dogs and nothing satisfies their demanding palate. A way around this difficulty is to turn to food toppers. The alternative brand suggestions we gave have food toppers or you can pick a broth or goat’s milk to mix in with the dry dog food. We generally don’t see as many picky eating habits when it comes to wet food, but you can still mix in food toppers for added supplements.
Whatever you do, don’t encourage your dog’s picky eating by switching his food too often because it sets a precedence. It communicates to your dog that he gets what he wants if he just refuses to eat.
Nature’s Recipe Dog Food Recalls
We know that dog food recalls are what’s on the forefront of a dog parent’s mind. There is a difference between a forced recall and a voluntary one. A voluntary one usually shows a company that is ethical and willing to pull their products off the shelves despite a loss of profit, but of course, it can be argued that they’re doing that to safeguard their reputation before cases break out.
The most high-impact one we discovered was way back in 2012. The brand hasn’t had a lot of recalls, which attests to its quality control. Dog treats were pulled from the shelves in 2012 and it was a voluntary one. It was because there was a fear of possible salmonella contamination. The recall wasn’t due to reported cases, just the brand’s “dedication to safety and quality”.
Aside from that, the only other recall we found was one in 1995 (which seems like ages ago). This particular recall was a bigger deal and was the result of an investigation. Pet parents around the country were reporting cases of dogs refusing to eat. The investigation showed that the ingredient mycotoxin in the pet food had exceeded the maximum limit by 2 -3 times!
Subsequently, 14 pet foods were pulled and Nature’s Recipe dog food was off the shelves for about 2 months. This recall cost the company a lot financially, and it tainted its reputation for a bit too after that. We believe that this is a big contributor to the brand’s strict quality assurance.
Many brands have had mistakes in the past, and what’s very important to note is that Nature’s Recipe has learned from its grave mistake, as we can see from the voluntary recall in 2012. While there is a possibility that further recalls are in the brand’s future, we will say that we have more confidence that Nature’s recipe will handle it in a responsible way.
This is something some other brands may not be able to say with many more lawsuits and illness cases under their belt.
What do we think of Nature’s Recipe overall? It’s definitely one of the preferred brands due to its dedication to your pet, the ingredients sourcing, and the purposeful recipes. However, as we mentioned, Nature’s Recipe does contain a lot of sweet potatoes, peas, and legumes, which could be linked to dietary DCM. There are lots of people out there that tailor their pet’s diets to avoid these ingredients, but there are others (some even vets) that say there is no conclusive evidence just yet, and keeping a balanced and rotating diet is fine.
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- Contains one (1) 24-pound bag of Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Chicken,...
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- Real chicken is the number one ingredient